Revelation 17

This devotional is written by Matt Coombs.

Revelation 17

Babylon, the prostitute on the beast
17 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. 2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.’

3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 The name written on her forehead was a mystery:
6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. 7 Then the angel said to me: ‘Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.

9 ‘This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. 11 The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.

12 ‘The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.’

15 Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. 16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. 18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.’


This chapter focuses on the ruin of “religious Babylon” - the fall of an ungodly spiritual system. This is depicted through a commonly known symbolic character - a woman often referred to as the “Whore of Babylon” (5).

It’s suggested that the letters to the seven churches at the start of this book contain themes that are carried on through the rest of Revelation. As we read, each letter contains either encouragement, warning or rebuke to the churches. The church in Thyatira includes the symbolic imagery of a character called Jezebel which would bring to mind a woman called Jezebel in the Old Testament who led her husband, King Ahab, astray and into idolatrous worship. Her name represents the idolatrous call to worship Baal which included sexually immoral acts.

Imagine the Christians in Thyatira hearing this book read to them, their ears may prick listening to this chapter too. The ‘Jezebel’ in their letter was also leading people astray, and encouraging them for the sake of business to participate in events where there would be licentious behaviour and food sacrificed to idols. Sexual immorality is often used in the Bible to parallel idolatry. So this woman of Babylon represents the people and the systems in the pagan world who are leading Christians away from worshipping the one true God.

Interestingly, John then sees the beast destroy the woman (11-18). This may imply that the pseudo-Christians who sully their faith and worship idols by cosying up with the state (and their gods) in the end will never be truly accepted by the state anyway.

For most of us, we don’t have any idea what this is like. Our context is far removed from this. But for Christians in China, Vietnam, or Iran for example, this is a real challenge to keep the faith handed down to them.

Let’s pray for Christians around the world where practicing their faith is challenged, and where the State’s ungodly spiritual system would seek to corrupt it and them. Pray that they would stand firm in their worship of the Lamb of God, who is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and shall reign for ever and ever.

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